As a female in the corporate world and a part of the travel industry, for obvious reasons, I do a lot of corporate travel. From first-hand experience, I am acutely aware of the challenges facing female travellers, and I thought it would be prudent to take a look at this, as it is something that should be of great concern to all Travel Professionals.
In a thought-provoking article from SAP about travel spend trends, they talk about the risk that female travellers face as being one that should be ‘top of the corporate agenda.’ According to the report “A recent GBTA report found that only 18% of corporate travel safety policies specifically address female safety needs.”
I found this to be a somewhat alarming statistic and felt that we need to be looking more closely into the challenges female travellers face and potential solutions.
Are female travellers really at higher risk?
According to a 2018 online survey conducted by AIG Travel Inc. and Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), 71% of female travellers interviewed believed they faced a higher risk when travelling than their male counterparts. Not surprisingly, it also revealed that in fact 83% had experienced an unpleasant safety-related event within that year!
Needless to say and not surprisingly, the impact on the productivity of those travellers was also high. To be able to deal with an issue, it is often best to get a clear understanding of why it happens. Obviously, Safety incidents can include food and health risks, information security risks, natural disasters or even terrorist events. In the case of female traveller incidents, however, far more are about sexual harassment and assault, theft and cultural travel issues.
Simply because they are seen as the ‘weaker’ sex women are targeted, especially if in areas with which they are not familiar. If not in groups, or the company of other travellers (with preferably some male company), they can be victimised.
The same aforementioned GBTA report mentioned that “companies will need to place more serious emphasis on ensuring their corporate travel policies address priority female concerns such as sexual harassment, assault and theft. At the same time, women should take the initiative to demand companies take care of them.”
Companies need to ensure that insurance policies, often just covering travel challenges across a broad spectrum, should also deal specifically with their female employee’s specific challenges. A lot of companies have policies in place, yet may not have updated them to reflect their growing population of female travellers in today’s uncertain global environment.
Initiatives to educate and train female travellers in the prevention of incidents also need to be introduced into the workplace. There are many preventative solutions for travel incidents and protecting oneself as a female. Just a few obvious tips include:
- Ensuring you know whether the territory to which you are travelling has cultural issues relating to female dress codes etc.
- Knowing if your destination has high levels of violence so you can know not to venture out into the streets on your own
- Packing for safety – i.e. pack in mace or pepper spray – as distasteful as it sounds, these have been known to save rape incidents and even lives…
- …and of course, use your mobile as a connection device to the nearest security at all times. There are many panic buttons, and armed security companies available for instant hook up on one’s arrival in most countries.
The list goes on, and every women’s security is at least partially in her own hands. Speaking not as a woman, but as an industry leader though, let us not for one moment neglect our own vital role in placing this issue high on the agenda of every TMCs corporate travel package planning.
Females in the workplace are growing in number and becoming more of a force to be reckoned with. Let us ensure they are shown the respect they deserve …and the full protection to which they are entitled when travelling.LIDIA FOLLI
CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER